When I talk about the humanities, and the importance of art, and literature in particular, in the world as a whole, I struggle to articulate any coherent, empirical argument. I can say that it is an essential component of humanity, that there would be no civilization or culture without art, and that it is what makes life worth living, but for many people, nothing is true except statistics and tangible benefit. Well, that’s not the world art exists in, and I’m okay with that, even if it makes arguing my case a little harder.
But difficulty does not imply defeat; art is the foundation of civilization, and perhaps the clearest example of this connection lies in Arabic culture, to whom we owe much of our societal progress to this day. This is a culture founded upon language in the most literal way possible. Arab literature precedes the Islamic religion and caliphates, but achieves its true height and impact with the Prophet Muhammad’s writing of the Qu’ran, in Arabic of course, setting in stone the importance of the Arabic language and poetry within this new culture. Bedouin poetry was an important cornerstone in Arab society, illustrated by the tribal position of rawis, whose only job was to memorize and recite poetry, and this importance lasted into the Golden Age of Islam with the Umayyad and Abbasid Caliphates and beyond.